The aviation sector in Cyprus must be supported, Executive Director of the Flight Safety Foundation- Mediterranean (FSF-MED) Christos Petrou has told CNA, urging the relevant authorities to examine the possibility of establishing a new national airline, even with state participation but not based on unsuccessful past models.
In particular, referring to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on aviation worldwide, Petrou said that it is the sector which had to bear the brunt of “immediate and serious consequences of the pandemic.” Air-traffic in March and April has dropped by over 90% compared to 2019, he added.
As a result, all aviation related businesses, airlines, airports, security services, fuel suppliers, ground services and others, he said, have suffered hundreds of millions or even billions of euros in losses.
Approximately 18,000 airplanes have been grounded and hundreds of jobs have already been lost, while the situation is expected to deteriorate not just this year but also in 2021, he noted, adding that already some airlines have shut down or are in the brink of bankruptcy.
According to Petrou it is now evident and acknowledged by everyone that airline survival, small and large, will depend on the support they are offered by governments.
The current and future situation, inevitably affects Cyprus to a greater extent because as an island whose economy depends largely on tourism, and without having a local air carrier to meet its needs, particularly in times of crisis, its connectivity depends from the decisions of foreign airlines mainly low cost ones, he pointed out.
Petrou added that “it is not certain if airlines who traditionally transported the greatest number of tourists to Cyprus will survive and whether Cyprus will be included in their new flight plans.”
“We believe Transport, Communications and Works Yiannos Karousos was right to raise these challenges before the EU Council of Transport yesterday and to ask that financial aid is given in order to meet them,” he said.
He continued noting that although some help can be expected from the EU, “the government should prepare its own strategic plan to strengthen the aviation sector in Cyprus, in order to effectively deal with the crisis in air-transport from the pandemic, which it is generally accepted will continue for some time, and also to deal with future crises, since as an island in a volatile region and having its own national problem, Cyprus is susceptible to crises.”
Strengthening and supporting the sector could be done in various ways, he said, adding that it should focus on airlines, airports, airport safety services, ground management services and fuel suppliers.
According to Petrou, “the only effective and permanent way of dealing with crises, such as the current one and future ones, is the establishment of a credible in size and quality local air-carrier, not on the basis of past failed models.” Rather, it should be established, following “the standards and best practices of successful airlines,” he concluded.